India’s barefoot sensation in town

2012-02-25 00:00

KENYAN John Bergin is aiming to set the streets of Pietermaritzburg alight tomorrow morning when over 3 000 runners will compete in the 17th Weekend Witness Maritzburg Marathon.

Bergin is one of the many international runners who have chosen the popular marathon, which is now gaining benefit from their AIM’s (Association of International Marathon and Distance Races) membership and this year became the first African host of the official Marathon Flame. By comparison Anand Anantharaman from New Mumbai in India will be looking for cooler road conditions, as his aim is to compete the two-lap tour of the city barefoot!

Leading contender Bergin has twice run a 2:09 marathon in Milan and is currently in peak training for the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon, but will have his eyes on a bonus of R2 500, which will be on offer to the first runner to beat 2:15 for the Martizburg event.

With a 1:02 posting for the half marathon, the Kenyan is not short of speed and has been in the country since September training over the hills in and around Pietermaritzburg. If he is on form then he should be relatively unchallenged in the race, which is why he is expected to link up with Jari Munyaradza, who will be amongst the leading contenders in the half marathon. This pairing could easily assist each other in pacing towards a double victory.

Tanith Maxwell is expected to use the half marathon as one of the final tests in her build up to Rotterdam marathon in mid April. Maxwell requires to run an Olympic qualifying time and has struggled with a couple of injuries in past months having to pull out of both Frankfurt and Dubai marathons. The 35-year-old has her sights set on breaking the 2:30 barrier in Rotterdam, but should still earn a place to London if she can get under 2:35.

Anantharaman only started running at 55 years of age, but has already run seven marathons on seven continents and is now targeting six continents barefoot.

The 57-year-old, who is part of an international contingent that includes runners from Spain, UK, U.S., Canada, Korea and Japan, may find the second lap a bit hotter than he bargained for in the KZN sun.

An unfortunate withdrawal has come from American Emily Field, who has run 50 marathons in 50 days and races distances from 5000 metres to 50 km on the trails. The California-based runner was unable to get flights to arrive in time for the event, but will arrive shortly for her final preparation for Two Oceans and Comrades.

Both the half and full marathon runners will be marched forward from their assembly point behind the Marathon Flame, which will be brought down from the cauldron at the city hall in time to initiate the firing of the regimental cannon for the 5 am start.

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